LIVERMORE -- Famed "Pentagon Papers" whistle-blower and anti-nuclear activist Daniel Ellsberg was one of 31 protesters arrested at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on Tuesday as part of a rally commemorating the 68th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

Lying down in front of the lab's west gate, where they were outlined in chalk to symbolize the victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the protesters were ordered to disperse by Alameda County sheriff's deputies. After a second warning for participating in an unlawful assembly, Ellsberg and others were pulled away by lab security. Those arrested were cited by the deputies for blocking the gate -- essentially trespassing -- and released.

"It's hard for me to believe that the crime (Hiroshima) will not be repeated," Ellsberg said prior to his arrest. "We shouldn't be letting it go on without our protests. This won't happen without it being over our bodies."

The mass "die-in," part of an annual Hiroshima Day protest organized by the Livermore Conversion Project and Tri-Valley CAREs (Citizens Against a Radioactive Environment), was preceded by a 7 a.m. rally at the corner of Vasco and Patterson Pass roads and a procession that drew nearly 250 people. Tri-Valley CAREs Executive Director Marylia Kelley said the purpose of the event was to call not just for the abolition of nuclear weapons, but to support civilian science at the lab.


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During the hour-long program, the Rev. Nobuaki Hanaoka, a Nagasaki bombing survivor, told of his exposure to nuclear fallout as an infant, and of losing his mother, sister and brother to radiation poisoning.

"Those who survived owe it to the dead," Hanaoka told the crowd. "You are all survivors; it is the responsibility of you and I to make sure we leave the world safe, peaceful and nuclear-free."

Ellsberg gave the morning's keynote speech, warning of the ongoing threat of nuclear weapons to humanity and asking attendees to close their eyes for 43 seconds, the time it took for the bomb to land on Hiroshima after being dropped.

"There was a cut in history at that point," Ellsberg said. "We have had this much time to do better, and we have not made use of it."

The speakers elicited some support from passing motorists, as well as a few yells from detractors. At 8:15 a.m., a siren wailed and the somber gathering observed a moment of silence for the bombing victims. Then, the march commenced down Vasco Road to the lab's west gate.

Berkeley protester Chizu Hamada, originally from Tokyo, made the quarter-mile walk holding a banner commemorating the Fukushima nuclear accident of 2011.

"We have to erase nuclear weapons and plants," Hamada said. "This bomb was totally inhuman. It never should have happened."

While an Okinawan band played a mournful tune, Stella Roemers, of Union City, joined with the protesters being outlined with chalk outside the gate.

"The idea is when you are down on the floor, you are putting your body in their place," Roemers said.

Despite the arrests, Livermore lab spokewoman Lynda Seaver said the protest was peaceful, and similar to previous Hiroshima Day rallies over the past two decades.

"They've been doing this a number of years," Seaver said. "It's fairly routine, and their numbers are diminishing."

Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.